Bernie Sanders photo

Interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN Regarding Statement of Presidential Candidacy

April 30, 2015

Blitzer: I want to move to politics right now and the announcement by the Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders, that he is now officially a candidate for president of the United States. Here's where he stands, by the way, in our latest CNN/ORC poll. This poll was taken right after Hillary Clinton declared that she was a candidate for president. Clinton, 69 percent, Vice President Biden who says at least not yet that he's running, at 11 percent, Senator Sanders, he's third with 5 percent. Senator Sanders is with us right now.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us. An important day for you. We've been speaking about this for weeks and you were telling us you were thinking of doing it. Now you've decided to go ahead and do it. I want to talk about the politics in a moment, but I want to get your thoughts on Baltimore first. We've been watching this very closely. If you were president of the United States, what would you do about this? It's a crisis, not just in Baltimore, but in a lot of other communities around the country.

Sanders: Well, you know, it's primarily a local and state issue, but the president has the bully pulpit and the president has the eyes of the nation.

Look, the issue here is - I was a mayor for eight years. Being a cop is a very, very difficult job. But the word has got to get out that when police act inappropriately, and, of course, in this case, there has to be a thorough investigation, but for too many years, too many mostly black suspects have been treated terribly and, in some cases, murdered. That is unacceptable. And police officers have got to be held accountable for their actions.

Second of all, in the neighborhood where this gentleman lives, as I understand it, the unemployment rate is over 50 percent, over 50 percent. What we have got to do as a nation is understand that we have got to create millions of jobs to put people back to work to make sure that kids are in schools and not in jails. So, short term, we've got to make sure that police officers have cameras. We've got to make sure that we have real police reform so that suspects are treated with respect. Long term, we've got to make sure that our young people are working, they're in school, they're not hanging out on street corners.

Blitzer: So as president, though, what do you do - I mean how do you - how do you fix those problems? We've been hearing about those problems, as you and I know, for decades.

Sanders: Well, I - I, along with John Conyers of Michigan, I've introduced legislation which would create a million jobs for young people in this country in some of the hardest pressed areas of America. Real unemployment is a serious problem in this country. Got to put our people back to work. I think the federal government has got to work with state and local governments to make sure that we move towards what I called in Burlington, Vermont, when I was the mayor, we called community policing, where police are per received as part of the community, the good guys, rather than as infloppers, people who are from the outside coming in.

Blitzer: Let's talk about the race for the White House. Why do you think you're more qualified than Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic nomination?

Sanders: Well, first of all, I've known Hillary Clinton for some 25 years. I like her. I respect her. What I believe is that this country today faces more serious problems that any time since the Great Depression and at the top of the list is the disappearing middle class. For 40 years, the middle class has been disappeared, and we have seen a massive transfer of wealth, trillions of dollars from working families to the top one tenth of 1 percent. That is the issue. And then on top of that you've got Citizen's United and a political system now where billionaires are buying elections, spending hundreds of millions of dollars. I have been a vigorous opponent of that trend. My history, my beliefs are that you stand with working families and you say to the billionaire class -

Blitzer: And Hillary Clinton doesn't?

Sanders: Well, I'm just saying what I say, you know, take - you mobilize people and you say, enough is enough, the billionaires can't have it all, all right? I believe we should break up the Wall Street banks. I think they are - if they're too big to fail, they're too big to exist.

Blitzer: So what's the difference on policy, not - forget about politics, on policy between you and Hillary Clinton?

Sanders: Well, there are some clear examples. [inaudible].

Blitzer: What are some examples?

Sanders: Well, I voted against the war in Iraq. Not only did I vote against the war in Iraq, I believed and I spoke out, I led the effort against that war because I had the feeling that what did happen would happen.

Blitzer: So does that - her vote disqualify her?

Sanders: No, it doesn't disqualify her. Look, we will have that debate over issues. I believe, as I said a moment ago, that you should take on Wall Street. They have too much power right now.

Blitzer: Is she ready to do that?

Sanders: Well, you'll have to ask her, Wolf, I'm not going to speak for her.

Blitzer: Well, what do you think?

Sanders: No, I'm not going to say that. I mean I -

Blitzer: All right, so you voted against the war. She voted for it. What else is a difference between you and Hillary Clinton?

Sanders: All right, I happen to think that climate change is the major environmental crisis facing this planet. I voted against the Keystone Pipeline. I don't think you should transport across America some of the dirtiest fuel in the world. I don't know that she has spoken out on that.

In terms of trade, right now I'm helping to lead the opposition against the TPP. I voted against all of these disastrous trade agreements which have led to the shutdown of factories in America and jobs moving to China and other low wage countries. That's my view. She'll have to -

Blitzer: As secretary of state, she supported - we haven't heard from her lately on her position -

Sanders: And your job is to ask her but, you know, I - so those are some of the areas. But mostly the American people will have to make a decision. I believe that we have an economic and political crisis in this country. I think the billionaire class is getting virtually all of the gains. I think they have too much political power. I think the people of this country have to come together, stand up to them.

Blitzer: What about campaign fund raising? I know you - there's no way you're going to compete with her when it comes to collecting money, right?

Sanders: I agree.

Blitzer: All right. So she's going to have a huge, huge advantage.

Sanders: Right.

Blitzer: How do you deal with that?

Sanders: All right, let me take a step back because you're asking a very profound question. The real question is, can any candidate in this country who represents working families, who is not a billionaire, who is not beholden to big money, can that candidate in this day and age win an election? It's not just Bernie Sanders. I don't know the answer.

Blitzer: Because last week or two weeks ago when we spoke you said you were thinking of running. The big question is, could you raise enough money to be competitive?

Sanders: That's right. That's right.

Blitzer: So can you raise enough money to compete with Hillary Clinton?

Sanders: Well, we are just sending out a social media message on berniesanders.com. From what I'm understanding, we're raising hundreds of thousands of dollars today. Clearly we're not going to be having the billions of dollars that our opponents will have. But I do believe, and I would not have entered this race if, A, I didn't think we could win, and, B, if we could not raise enough money to run a strong campaign.

Blitzer: If there's a billionaire out there who's a liberal and likes you, wants to give you a ton of money, is that OK?

Sanders: I doubt that there is.

Blitzer: Let's say there is. Let's say there's some George Soros type that — [crosstalk] — really feels that you're best for the country — [crosstalk]

Sanders: I am not supportive of a super PAC.

Blitzer: You wouldn't accept that kind of support?

Sanders: No. No.

Blitzer: Really?

Sanders: Well, I don't know. Maybe if it was you, Wolf.

[crosstalk]

Blitzer: I don't have that kind of money.

Sanders: Frankly, it is vulgar to me that we are having a war of billionaires. Sheldon Adelson is versing the Koch brothers. People did not die to create a democratic system where it's a war between billionaires. I will get the vast amount of money from small, individual contributions. That's how I've always done it. That's how I'll do it this time.

Blitzer: You're running as a Democrat, not as and Independent?

Sanders: I am the longest-serving Independent in the history of the United States Congress, I will be active in the Democratic primary process.

Blitzer: Looking forward to debating not only Hillary Clinton, but the other Democrats who are interested?

Sanders: I am excited about getting around the country, excited about the debate. I've never run a negative ad in my life. I detest the ugly, 30 second ads. I hope we can have a strong issue-oriented campaign and I hope the media allows us that opportunity, not to get into political gossip, but to debate the enormous issues facing working families.

Blitzer: Look forward to hearing the debates, and good luck.

Sanders: Thank you.

Blitzer: Bernie Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Is that right?

Sanders: Yes.

Thank you.

Blitzer: Thank you for joining us.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN Regarding Statement of Presidential Candidacy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310835

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